Chicken with lemon and olives is very traditionally Moroccan and in Morocco, the dish is made with preserved lemons. I can’t tell you how many times nor how many variations of the dish I’ve in my two years living in Rabat. It’s like ordering a burger at an American diner — it’s often the best thing on the menu.
We were in Marrakech for a three-day weekend a couple of weeks ago, and I had chicken with lemon and olives twice in three days. First, was in the home of a Moroccan colleague, and second, at one of the top restaurants in Marrakech, Yacout. Both versions were delicious, the homemade version included the giblets from the chicken, which gives the dish and extra depth of flavor. At Yacout, the chickens come out whole and the waiter de-bones the 2 whole chickens tableside with a fork and a spoon less than 3 minutes. It’s impressive to watch.
In fact, dinner at Yacout was quite an experience and definitely an over-indulgence. The meal started with traditional Moroccan salads of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, olives, zucchini, and more. Then couscous, chicken with lemon and olives, and a lamb tagine. Even the dessert was 2 courses, with a light and crispy pastilla as the first dessert course (the fifth course in the meal!). This was the most amazing pastilla I’ve had. Most of the time, the dessert pastillas are like a small hand pie. Usually it has a mix of nuts, honey, cinnamon, and possibly dates or prunes, enveloped in a phyllo-like dough, dusted with powered sugar and served at room temperature. It reminds me of baklava.
THIS pastilla, THIS pastilla was of a totally different variety. It was a milk pastilla, light, crispy, and creamy, with just a touch of sweetness and cinnamon. It sounds disparaging, but the best way I can describe the flavor and texture is that it tasted like a GIANT frosted flake on steroids. I could’ve eaten the whole thing, that’s how light, airy and delicious it was. I was with four others, so it wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to hog the entire thing, but I ate least a third of the pastilla. After the pastilla, the meal was topped off with traditional Moroccan cookies and of course, with Moroccan mint tea (blah, blah, blah, compared to that milk pastilla).
I’m now on the hunt for a recipe to recreate that milk pastilla, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with the traditional savory flavors of chicken with lemon and olives. In Rabat, most preserved lemons are preserved made in advance in the home, and not something you can just pick up in the store. My version of the dish uses fresh lemons instead of the traditional preserved lemons, which brightens the dish a little bit—and lets you save room for dessert! It’s a hearty weekday supper that just might transport you to my part of the world. 😉
- About 8-10 pieces of chicken, with bones and skin (you can cut up a whole chicken into pieces, or use the parts you prefer. I used 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks)
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
- 1 ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 regular lemons, thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups chicken broth
- ½ cup green olives
- In a shallow dish, combine flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
- Dredge (lightly coat) the chicken with the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Too much flour makes the sauce a little gummy, but a light dredge will give a little crisp to the chicken.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat.
- Brown the chicken skin side down first, for about 3-4 minutes per side. Don’t crowd the chicken and do this in batches if you need to. The chicken won’t be cooked all the way through, but the outside should be golden.
- Remove the browned chicken and set aside on a plate.
- In the same skillet, still over medium high heat, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, lemons, and onion and sauté for 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic, ginger, remaining teaspoon of salt and pepper, and then remaining spices and sauté for another minute.
- Add the chicken broth and olive and bring the broth to a boil.
- Once the broth is boiling, add the remaining pieces of chicken, skin side up then turn the heat down so the sauce is simmering lightly, but still bubbling consistently.
- Cook the chicken in the sauce partially covered until it is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Once the chicken is cooked, if the sauce hasn’t thickened enough, remove the chicken and bring the sauce to a boil and let it reduce, uncovered, to your desired thickness. Personally, I like the sauce a bit runny—and so do many Moroccans!
Eating in is easy! Use these weekday super recipes to help plan your weekly menus. Most of the weekday supper recipes can be made in just 30 minutes with normal pantry items. Here is this week’s line-up:
Monday – Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken by Recipes Food and Cooking
Tuesday – Sanma Teriyaki by A Mama, Baby & Shar-pei in the Kitchen
Wednesday – Lighter Turkey Reuben by Feed Me, Seymour
Thursday – Chicken with Lemon and Olives by eating in instead (that’s me!)
Friday – Milk Poached Cod with Winter Greens by Nik Snacks